Anytime a player bursts onto the scene in any professional sport making an immediate impact, you can damn well bet comparisons to an all-time great are sure to follow. After 19 regular season games in the NFL, we’ve reached that point for Dallas Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons. Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor is the highest bar for a linebacker to strive for on the field. And that’s the level some feel Parsons is approaching, not even halfway through his sophomore campaign.
There’s no denying that Parsons is a beast, but whenever so many people simultaneously make this type of comparison, it should give cause to pause. It’s nothing against Parsons, but we see this all the time.
J.J. Watt was supposed to be the next big thing in the evolution of pass rushers in the early 2010s, and he was that for a few years. Watt recorded 20.5 sacks in 2012 for Houston, then did it again in 2014. Watt was selected to the All-Pro team and Pro Bowl in four of his first five seasons. He also won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in ‘14 & ‘15.
Unfortunately, the injury bug got a hold of Watt, and he’s made one Pro Bowl and All-Pro team since ‘16. He’s undoubtedly an all-time great, but Watt’s career certainly took an unexpected detour. He won’t even go down as the greatest defensive player of his generation. That honor is reserved for Aaron Donald, considered by many to be the best interior defensive lineman in league history. Watt and Donald primarily play different positions on the D-line, but if we’re talking overall accomplishment and impact on the defensive side of the ball, it’s Donald without question.
What Parsons has done thus far is amazing. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year, All-Pro, and a Pro Bowl selection last season. All things Taylor did his rookie year but even went one step further than Parsons by taking home the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in his first season. Taylor would win two more DPOY awards and was named NFL MVP in ‘86.
Yes, a defensive player won the MVP award. LT won the award in a year where Dan Marino threw 44 touchdown passes and over 4,700 yards. No other QB went over 25 TDs, and only one other threw for 4,000 yards in ‘86. For Taylor to win that MVP over Marino that year when QBs weren’t typically posting those numbers is impressive. Taylor’s also a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
That’s the kind of domination Parsons is up against when compared to Taylor. We often hear coaches and executives talk about how important it is to find a great left tackle to protect the QBs blindside. LT is the reason why the left tackle position has become so coveted. After he broke Joe Theisman’s leg in ‘85, teams realized the importance of protecting their QBs blindside.
In no way is this meant to diminish what Parsons has accomplished so far in his professional career. But this constant rush to crown someone the next so and so is always funny. Everyone wants to claim they were “first” to say this or that. But too many times, we go straight to the top when it isn’t yet warranted.
Some of the talking heads in the sports media universe have tempered their Parsons hype and gone a little lower on the list, saying he reminds them of Von Miller. Another all-time great pass rusher who’s also a future Hall of Famer is still going strong in Buffalo. That comparison might be a little more apt for Parsons at this stage. It’s not a knock on anyone, but the LT comparison is a bit much right now.
Taylor isn’t only considered the best defensive player in NFL history, but some have called him the best player the league has ever seen. Of all the great QBs, RBs, and WRs we’ve seen, some folks say LT (an LB) is the best football player ever. Parsons is great and could be the best defensive player in the league today. But let’s chill with all the LT talk and let this kid’s career play out past 20 games.
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